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Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the total cost of running the Department's press office was in (a) 199697 and (b) the latest year for which figures are available. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis [holding answer 10 April 2002]: The annual budget for the Department for Education and Employment/Department for Education and Skills press office for 199697, 200001 and 200102 (spend to date) are:
|Spend to date||Year to date|
(9) To date
John Healey: We are currently working on the design/build phase of the programme to prepare for the September roll-out of the Curriculum Online service. The service will offer teachers a range of educational material, both free and priced, and will give them the freedom to access the resources that best suit their teaching needs, using the advanced search technology which will feature on the portal.
Richard Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the differential between upper pay scales in further and secondary education in the last three years for which records are available. 
2001: £26,919 to £31,128.
23 Apr 2002 : Column 157W
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) pursuant to her answer of 3 December 2001, Official Report, column 68W, regarding planned funding of further and higher education, if the planned cash increase of £412 million in 200102 was all spent. 
Margaret Hodge: The increase in publicly planned funding for higher education institutions in England in 200102 over 200001 is now estimated to be £396 million, the difference being due mainly to the re-classification of planned expenditure to support widening participation in that year. The accounts for 200102 are not yet closed and will not be finalised until November 2002.
For the subsequent two years the increases are now expected to be £292 million and £304 million respectively. The differences are due to provision of funding for the British Academy being made via the Higher Education Funding Council for England from 200203, and this increase being offset by a further re-classification of planned expenditure for widening participation in those years. It is intended that these increases will be spent in the years for which they are allocated.
Margaret Hodge: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills has accepted the recommendation of the board of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) that they dispense with the Maximum Student Number (MaSN) control from 200203. It has been agreed that should the removal of the control have undesirable effects, the policies would be reconsidered. Details were announced in the HEFCE publication "Recurrent Grants for 200203" (March 02/11) and sent to the heads of all HEFCE-funded institutions and heads of universities in Northern Ireland.
23 Apr 2002 : Column 158W
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps she will take to increase the number of applications to study medicine from social classes IV and V, between 1996 and 2001. 
Margaret Hodge [holding answer 17 April 2002]: Widening access was a criterion in the exercise to distribute new medical places, completed in 2001. Under the "Widening Participation in Medicine" programme universities were encouraged to put forward innovative proposals to support the admission of students from a broad range of social and ethnic backgrounds. The aim is to reflect the population served by the NHS.
In addition, the Council of Heads of Medical Schools, working closely with the Commission for Racial Equality, has set up guiding principles and a model action plan for handling applications and admissions. These have been adopted by all 24 medical schools in the UK.
This Government are committed to raising the participation rates for people from low income backgrounds. We have a £290 million programme under Excellence Challenge, to raise the aspirations of those who traditionally would not consider enter higher education. Moreover, students from lower income families do not pay tuition fees.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what shortages of (a) drivers, (b) signallers and (c) tracklayers exist within the railway industry; and how many vacancies there are within the industry for (i) middle managers, (ii) graduates and (iii) others. 
John Healey: The Progress Report on "Delivering the Framework for Skills in the Rail Industry", published in December 2001 by the Strategic Rail Authority and my Department, gives the following information on skill shortages for these occupations:
|Occupational group||Population||Number of skill shortages||Percentage|
|Signal operation (and control)||6,500||(10)(795) 100||(10)(12.3) 1.5|
|Track laying and maintenance||10,000||1,200||12|
|First line/middle management||18,650||755||4|
|Graduate and professional staff||20,000||1,638||8|
(10) These figures have been amended since the report was published, as new information became available.
(11) Not available.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, pursuant to her answer of 10 April 2002, Official Report, column 119W, on skills shortages in the railway industry, if she will place in the Library copies of the "Framework for Skills in the Rail Industry"
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and the progress report; to whom, and where, she announced the funding for new adult apprenticeships; and to which significant skill shortages she refers. 
John Healey: Copies of the "Framework for Skills in the Rail Industry" and the progress report on it have been placed in the Library. I announced the funding for adult apprenticeships for the rail industry at the Transport Skills Seminar on 14 February 2002. The significant skill shortages I referred to are those for train driving, signal operation (and control), electrification and track laying and maintenance.
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills who attended the education meeting of the EU Council of Ministers on 8 June 2001 on behalf of the UK; and who led the UK delegation. 
Margaret Hodge [holding answer 18 April 2002]: There was no meeting of the EU Education Council on this date. However, the UK was represented, at the meeting of 8 June 2000, by Nicol Stephen MSP. This is one of only two occasions, when a Minister from Scotland has led the UK delegation at a meeting of the EU Education Council.
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills who attended the education meeting of the EU Council of Ministers on 12 February 2001 on behalf of the UK; and who led the UK delegation. 
Margaret Hodge [holding answer 18 April 2002]: The UK was represented at the EU Education Council of 12 February 2001 by Nicol Stephen MSP. This is one of only two occasions, when a Minister from Scotland has led the UK delegation at a meeting of the EU Education Council.
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